Imagine what it feels like to cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon – the wind in your hair and the err basket at your feet. For most people, the thought would never be more than a fleeting ‘what if?’.
The success of this kind of mission would rely on two factors; personal courage and ballooning ingenuity.
Branson and Per Lindstrand took on this immeasurable challenge in July 1987. 3,075 miles of water separated them from a place in the record books.
The voyage was a success and the pioneering twosome crossed the proverbial pond in just 31 hours and 41 minutes.
The Virgin Atlantic Flyer launched from Sugarloaf Mountain, Maine, USA on the 2nd
July 1987 and landed in Limavady, Northern Ireland.
In the years to follow, Branson and his crew made several attempts to circumnavigate the globe by balloon. They were pipped to the post when the Breitling Orbiter, piloted by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones completed the first ever round the world ballooning trip in March 1999.more
Virgin Balloon Flights wanted to find out more about the famous Atlantic Flyer that floated Branson and Lindstrand to victory in 1987. We had a chat with the lovely researchers at IWM Duxford
in Cambridgeshire, where the Flyer capsule is now exhibited.
Carl Warner, Researcher at Duxford said: “The Virgin Atlantic Flyer balloon capsule is part of our largest exhibition, AirSpace, which tells the story of British and Commonwealth aviation.
“Record-breaking is a theme that draws together some of the exhibition’s most fascinating objects.”
The Atlantic crossing wasn’t the only record-breaker – the Flyer itself made huge advances in balloon technology.
Solar power was used to boost the effect of the propane gas burners that heated the air. The capsule was pressurised to enable crew members to survive at high altitudes.
British company, Thunder and Colt built the two man capsule and balloon. The balloon envelope was made of laminate fabric on a ’skeleton’ of load tapes and webbing. Solar heat absorption fabric was used around the bottom half of the envelope.
The envelope was the largest ever flown to that date (65,000m³) and reached speeds of 130 mph.
Speaking post flight in 1987 Lindstrand said: “One hour into the flight I thought ‘This is it!’ because everything was working exactly as we predicted. Richard and I were pinching ourselves.”
Do you want to follow in Branson’s footsteps? Call 0844 844 8080 or visit this link to book your flight today